Turning Points, Volume Five: A Shocker in Iowa City

By Jeff Beck on May 30, 2013 at 4:30p
Turning Points

Setting the Scene

Much was expected of the 1990 Buckeye squad. The group returned 11 starters and 37 lettermen including a veteran backfield in QB Greg Frey and RB, Scottie Graham.

On the other side of the ball, the Silver Bullets were anchored by a number of key players including linemen: Alonzo Spellman and Rich Frimel, defensive backs: Mark Pelini, Jimmy Peel and Vinnie Clark, and linebackers: Judah Herman and Steve Tovar.

The season would mark John Cooper’s third as the head man of the Buckeyes. In his first two seasons he compiled a pedestrian 12-10-1 record, however 8 of those wins came in the 1989 season.

The team didn’t exactly sprint out of the gate, as they played Texas Tech to a way-too-close 17-10 victory that included five turnovers.

In their second game, the Bucks took on Boston College in Chestnut Hill, soundly defeating the Eagles 31-10. The victory would mark the first time in the Cooper era the Scarlet and Gray jumped out to a 2-0 start.

Following a bye, the team took on USC in the ‘Shoe. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t exactly Southern California-esque and officials were forced to stop play before the end of regulation due to a massive storm. Because USC was up 35-26 at the time of the cancelation, they were awarded the win.

The bad karma continued the following week, as OSU would lose their B1G opener to Illinois 31-20. Once again, turnovers were a problem as the Buckeyes lost two fumbles and Frey threw four INTs including three in the final eight minutes of the game.

The outcome was only marginally better in game five after the Buckeyes played Indiana to a 27-all tie in Bloomington.

Needless to say no one in Buckeye Nation was impressed with the 2-2-1 start. Luckily the Scarlet and Gray would get back on track reeling off a streak of three wins before taking on the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

Visor Not IncludedQB Greg Frey helped make a little magic in 1990.

Iowa was riding the momentum of an impressive season under head coach, Hayden Fry. The Hawkeyes were leading the conference in offense and defense with a 7-1 record (5-0 in conference) that included wins against #18 Michigan State, #10 Michigan and #5 Illinois. To everyone on the outside, it appeared the Buckeyes were walking into a buzz-saw.

The Hawkeyes asserted themselves early leading 7-0 after the first quarter and 17-14 at half. 

Iowa’s TDs came via a QB, Matt Rodgers, scramble and a 1-yard run by FB, Lew Montgomery.

The Buckeyes’ 14 came on a Frey 1-yard run and a bizarre tip play in which a pass was nearly picked by Iowa safety Merton Hanks only to ricochet off of his arms and fall right into the hands of WR, Jeff Graham who dashed into the endzone for 6.

The Hawkeyes would extend their lead to 26-14 with roughly 11 minutes to go in the game, but the Scarlet and Gray were able to narrow the margin to 26-21 on the strength of a 21-yard toss from Frey to WR, Bobby Olive.

With no timeouts left and trailing by five, the Buckeyes would get the ball back at the Iowa 48-yard line with only 59 seconds to play. Which brings us to…

Turning Point: Olive in the Back of the endzone

Frey did an admirable job of working the ball down the field and conserving clock. Powered by a 23-yard connection to Olive and two tosses to Graham, Frey quickly had the Buckeyes to the Iowa 3-yard line.

With seven seconds to go and a second and goal from the three, Frey found Olive in the back of the end-zone for six with only one second remaining.

Just two seasons removed from his game-winner against LSU, Olive was the toast of Columbus once again.

Here's the final minute in all it's glory, but let's cut to the chase.

The win would ruin Iowa’s perfect record in conference and would mark one of only three losses on Iowa’s 1990 slate. Bonus troll points: Brett Bielema was a nose guard on the '90 Hawkeye squad.

The Buckeyes would go on to defeat Wisconsin the following week, but would ultimately lose to Michigan 13-16 in the regular season finale.

The less than impressive 7-3-1 record landed the Scarlet and Gray in the Liberty Bowl where they would play Air Force to a 11-23 loss.

A season that began with so much promise ended in two straight losses. However, the 1990 performance in Kinnick Stadium will always be remembered as a Buckeye great.

Until next week, Turning Points…out.



Michael Citro's picture

A couple things about this game. I'll never forget the way our entire block erupted when Olive caught the winning TD. You could hear neighbors screaming from every direction. It was beautiful. I sprinted outside yelling and my neighbor Nick did the same thing and we just high fived and laughed that we both had the same reaction.

Following a bye, the team took on USC in the ‘Shoe. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t exactly Southern California-esque and officials were forced to stop play before the end of regulation due to a massive storm. Because USC was up 35-26 at the time of the cancelation, they were awarded the win.

This is where Cooper lost me for good. He forfeited the game with time on the clock and two timeouts. While a comeback was certainly highly unlikely, I never forgave him for giving up. I was at the game and it broke my heart to leave with time still on the clock.


Jeff Beck's picture

I honestly can't believe they just ended a game like that. Crazy.

Joe Beale's picture

I was at the game too, and I remember it well. Many curses were called down on JHC that night.


Hovenaut's picture

Bert....is spelled with one 't', a friendly reminder.

Guess the pink locker room had no effect on the Buckeyes that day.

I don't advocare in the world...

45buckshot's picture

I prefer to forget all those games in the early 90s; it's easier that way. ;) the '93 squad had some moments but until Eddie I can't say I was very proud of any of those early teams. Again, they had their moments, but there was no consistency and they just kept losing to meatchicken. God love him, Cooper never really seemed to get it and until his recruiting picked up, I don't know... I prefer not to think about those teams too much, just like--except for the end of the Wisconsin game--I've pretty much "forgot" everything about 2011 season...

Veni, vidi, vici


CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Those teams definetly had thier moments and some great players.  Yeah, I think most of us would have liked a little more consistent winning and beating the Team up North more often in the 90s.  Sure does make you apprecite the past decade.  It has been somewhat of a golden age for OSU football and I do believe that the best is yet to come!   

nickma71's picture

It seems like that was the season where Coop thought Frey was going to run the option in an obvious run situation against michigan only to get it stuffed.

45buckshot's picture

Was that Frey? Or Herbstreit? I can't remember...

Veni, vidi, vici